DOBSON — Local tourism leaders are sending out a plant-shaped bat-signal to gather all agritourism partners in the region at an upcoming summit.
An agritourism-themed workshop will be held Feb. 6 from 3-5 p.m. at the N.C. Center for Viticulture & Enology at Surry Community College.
The free event, which is hosted by Mount Airy Tourism/Tourism Partnership of Surry County, is open to the public, especially anyone involved in an agritourism business or those planning to start one.
“We also encourage any of those involved in farmers’ markets, economic development and the N.C. Cooperative Extension,” said Jessica Icenhour Roberts, marketing director.
VisitNC.com, the state’s official travel and tourism website, approached the local tourism office about hosting the summit.
“I think VisitNC is aware of how important tourism is for our area with our expenditures being $116 million and also being a big playground for outdoor recreation. We’re also known as a destination that has a lot of scenic places, farms and farmers’ markets,” Roberts said.
“We said of course we would love to host this and have all of our regular tourism partners and anyone interested from any county to come and attend this agritourism workshop.”
But what exactly is agritourism?
“There are a lot of definitions,” said Roberts, providing one she finds helpful: “It’s activities offered on working farms and other agricultural settings for entertainment and/or educational purposes.”
Examples that come to mind include businesses such as wineries or educational sites such as Horne Creek Living Farm in Pilot Mountain.
But a variety of businesses and activities may fall under the umbrella of agritourism that “maybe you don’t always think about,” Roberts explained.
Those may include hayrides, corn mazes, farm-to-table dinner settings, pumpkin patches, birdwatching, beekeeping or pick-your-own fruits or vegetables.
“Anything that has a value-added product or showcases local products, things like that,” Roberts said.
One of the primary goals of the summit is to bring all those folks together under one roof.
“We want to showcase within the partners of agritourism what all there is in the area,” she said. “It also allows us to know if any there’s any agritourism business out there that we’re not aware of so that we can make sure they’re included in our visitors guide and on our website, and any of the websites the state provides for us to get exposure for them.”
The summit will feature two guest speakers, Anne Baggett, who is the agritourism marketing specialist for the state, and Matt Powell, of Destinations by Design.
Powell will lead a social media workshop focusing on the principles and platforms covered in the Bon Appétit Appalachia! book “Social Media Marketing Cookbook: Healthy Recipes For Engaging Your Customers.”
The book was published last October and is a guide for helping small businesses more effectively use the Bon Appétit Appalachia! brand to promote their business.
Representatives from several local entrepreneurs will also be showcasing their products at the workshop.
Roberts said organizers encourage anyone interested to attend.
“Agritourism really is important and it continues to grow,” Roberts said, noting that growth is reflected in statewide data and also anecdotally by all the new businesses and activities popping up in the region from new wineries and restaurants to campgrounds and the restoration of local rivers.
“The growth is important because it helps the economy and also brings in more healthy food options,” the tourism director said. “It also encourages more visitors that will stay longer and have more offerings to spend their money while they are visiting.”
To attend the workshop, please register to Jenny Smith at JSmith@visitmayberry.com by Feb. 6.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.